Over the last hundred years, longboarding has evolved into a unique movement within surf culture. While nowadays practised wherever there are waves, there remain a set of global heartlands, home to major step changes in design and approach, influential characters and of course, world-class waves. This is our guide to them.
Located on Oahu’s South Shore, Waikiki is home to surfing’s most historic breaks. Its sprawling lineup served as the focal point for both ancient Hawaiians and the sport’s 20th-century revivalists. Iconic watermen, like Duke Kahanamoku and George Freeth, who after cultivating a fresh take on surfing at home, struck out to introduce it to the rest of the world.
Throughout the summer months, the trade winds blow offshore across Waikiki’s two dozen named peaks, fringed by white sands, swaying palms and high-rise apartments. With them comes small, clean and consistent waves that roll in an endless cycle of foam and reform, adored by longboarders, learners and the ubiquitous outrigger canoe.
The most famous break is Queens and it’s here that a dense pack of young talent have recently emerged, like the Duke a century before them, to redefine contemporary wave riding. Names like Kelis Kaleopaʻa and Kaniela Stewart have become household on the global stage – their success built on generations of wisdom from the aunties and uncles with whom they still share the waves.
Located in Queensland’s southeasterly corner, Noosa Heads is a bonanza of sun-drenched greener and idyllic sand bottom points. The waves rarely get big, but even as ankle biters, they peel perfectly. Of the four distinct take of zones, the longboard crew favour Tea Trees, Johnson’s and First Point, thanks to their veritable mix of tapering walls and steep pocket sections. On really good days, it’s possible to surf from the Boiling Pot all the way to Main Beach – a leg-burning 700m ride.
The points have been a stomping ground for generations of innovators and influencers; from radical board builders Bob McTavish and George Greenough in the 1960s, to architects of the ‘ride everything’ approach in the 2000s. Nowadays, Dane Peterson’s levitating nose rides, Mason Schremmer’s power carves and Harrison Roach’s tubes behind the rock are all equally synonymous with this diverse slice of surfing paradise.
After decades of battles against encroaching development, in 2020 Noosa Heads was designated a World Surfing Reserve, ensuring its beaches and the national park will be preserved for generations to come. As a result, accessing the outer points requires a long walk through the eucalyptus and giant kauri pines, but the periodic glimpses of the shimmering surf and glorious, unspoilt surrounds make it a cherished part of the experience rather than a chore.
After visiting Hollywood bigwigs brought boards over in the mid-50s, Biarritz quickly evolved into Europe’s most debonair surf scene. The mix of fun waves and a local culture flush with fashion, art and culinary indulgence drew surfers from far and wide through the decades that followed. Among them was infamous outlaw Mikey Dora, who chose the town as his premiere bolthole while on the hoof from the FBI throughout the 70s and 80s.
However, it wasn’t until the summer of 1992 that Biarritz became a bonafide hub of global longboarding. While most surfers were gazing lovingly upon their pointy, rockered-out shortboards and thumbing through mags full of wunderkind Kelly Slater, by then well on his way to his maiden world title, Frenchman Robert Rabagny had his sights set elsewhere. In July, he organised the first Biarritz Surf Festival, designed as a homage to the sport’s rich history, flying in old school icons – from David Nuuhiwa to Rabbit Kekai – for a week of acrobatic tandem displays, outrigger canoe races and the world longboard championships.
The setting was the picturesque Côte Des Basques, home to gentle peelers framed by a neo-medieval villa that stands proudly on the headland. For 13 more years the festival ran in the town, inspiring a battalion of local groms who’ve gone on to build a thriving scene in its wake.
Wedged in the crook of a sandy bay in West Java, Batukaras point sees perfectly-paced rights wrap around the base of a verdant headland. While the outside offers steep take-offs and hollow sections, the inside is an altogether more mellow affair, as the wave peels gently for hundreds of meters along the sandy shoreline. There, beneath the jungle canopy, a scattering of warungs and homestays offer cocktails and snacks to the surfers who lounge in the sun between sessions.
The small fishing town has long been favoured by domestic tourists, backpackers and a few travelling surfers, however, the last decade has seen its popularity swell. Alongside the extra visitors is an ever-growing contingent of local loggers, led by Husni Ridhwan and Deni Firdaus – a pair with world-class technical ability and a classic style moulded by the traditional single fins left for them by travelling surfers. They’re particularly tight with a crew of Noosa-based loggers, including Matt Cuddihy and shaper Thomas Bexon, who passed through regularly while on filming trips for the brand Deus, for whom Deni and Husni now ride.
“I couldn’t believe that there was the most perfect pointbreak in this sleepy little town,” Cuddihy remembers of his first visit. “And the local guys surf so much. Their lives revolve around it. When it’s flat — which is not often — you’ll go through town and see all the kids in the warungs, fixing their dings and waiting for it to get good again. As soon as there is a glimmer of a wave, they’re all out there. Deni and all the other local boys have so much stoke and drive. You see why Deni surfs so well.”
Nowhere on earth can claim to have spawned more of modern longboard culture than the illustrious Malibu. From the lingo we use, to the boards we ride – still referred to as ‘Mals’ in much of the world – and almost everything we want to do on them. While a few records of nose riding exist prior, it was there, in the early 60s, that the likes of Phil Edwards and Lance Carson transformed it into an art, performed with the relaxed, easy-as-pie style that still reigns today.
Thanks to its regular waves throughout the balmy summer months and the movie Gidget, a vibrant beach culture flourished in the post-war years. For many, the crowds that followed marked the end of the golden age and the Bu’s appeal only faded further as the shortboard revolution beckoned. However, as is typical of the vanguard, a generation later the pendulum swung, returning Malibu to the fore in the new millennium as ground zero for traditional longboarding’s grand resurgence. There, folk like Jimmy Gamboa, Brittany Leonard and Joel Tudor rediscovered the joy of heavy single fins, blending 60s style with their own contemporary flourish. An appreciation for the subtleties of cross-stepping, trim and technical nose rides returned and with it, an insatiable appetite for the long walls that spawned them.
The biggest challenge nowadays is finding the elbow room you need to scratch into one.
When considering the world’s most log-friendly lefts, few places rival La Saladita’s balmy temps, length and consistency. Located on the same stretch of coast as Acapulco, Mexico’s most beloved tourist hotspot throughout the 60s and 70s, it didn’t take travelling Americans long to catch on to the region’s surfing potential. However, in recent years it’s locals who’ve really cemented Saladita as a nexus of global longboarding.
After being given a board by Californian surfing icon and longtime Saladita resident Corky Carroll – Lourdes Valencia became the town’s most prominent female surfer, ascending quickly to the thrown of La Reina Del Punta; The Queen of the Point. She went on to establish a surf shop, restaurant and collection of cabanas right in front of the wave. A decade later, they hosted The Mexi Log Fest and Vans Duct Tape Invitational, organised by a passionate surfer from just up the coast, Israel Preciado. His goal was to create a platform for local longboarders to compete against the world’s best, while showcasing the country’s incredible waves. Last year – the 7th annual edition, held in Sayulita – provided a full-throated vindication for Izzy’s vision, when local boy Jonathan “Gordo” Melendres became the first Mexican to win the event against a stacked international field. This April, the event is set to return to La Saladita, where the town’s top local talents like Dan Pascacio and Patty Ornelas will no doubt be looking to replicate the success of their countryman.
Situated at the end of a winding mountain road, the charming town of Imsouane is home to the longest right-hand point in the land of extremely long right-hand points. Perfectly suited to hoover up swells from the Atlantic, most winter days see swell lines wrapping around the harbour wall and sweeping into the aptly named Magic Bay, offering rides of up to 500m when conditions align.
Historically a quiet fishing village, with a scattering of huts built into the rocky cliff face by Berber families, Imsouane has undergone quite a transformation since the wave hit the global surf consciousness. When the first foreign surfers started turning up, there was no electricity or running water, but fifteen years on, there are over a dozen surf schools and camps, catering to a constant procession of frothers from the full range of abilities you’d expect of such a user-friendly wave. The long hike back to the paddle-out spot by the harbour helps thin the crowd a little, as does the current that swirls around the peak on bigger days, but getting a good one is always a challenge off the hungry pack of locals and stoked Scandinavians.
Just south of San Clemente, off the old Pacific Highway and past a little toll booth you’ll find a portal to surfing’s most glorified era, otherwise known as San Onofre beach.
Pulling up alongside the bevvy of vans and pickups, you’ll be met with the smell of greenery and panoramic views of a lineup adorned with almost a century of surf history. After WWII, San O became home to one of the world’s first surf clubs – complete with its own palm-thatched shack and a community atmosphere that remains the stuff of legend. In spite of everything that’s happened since, both shack and vibe endure.
On any given weekend, families, old-timers and some of the world’s finest longboarders can be found sharing shade in the dusty car park and the peaks out the back. There, folks like Andy Nieblas, Karina Rozunko and Tommy Witt surf in a manner imbued with theatrical odes to those who rode these waves before them.
Best during summer south swells and consistently rideable year-round, there’s The Point, a mellow left and Old Mans, whose sprawling lineup resembles that of Waikiki. Crowds are dense but good-natured, with waves regularly shared among all kinds of craft including gliders, surf mats, SUPs and even logs carrying canines on plastic lawn chairs.
Unlike most on this list, Canggu was not always destined to be one of logging’s cultural heartlands, with its fast-breaking river mouth peaks not an obvious playground for heavy, leashless single fins. Its establishment as such owes largely to the vision of ex-pats Dustin Humphrey and Dare Jennings, founder of Deus Ex Machina.
In 2011, the pair chose the town for Deus’ Bali HQ, starting work on a huge surf and moto complex, nestled between rice paddies a few miles back from the beach. They called it the Temple of Enthusiasm; a bonanza of board shaping, bike building, art festivals and raucous late-night revelry. Two years later, riding high on their growing popularity, they launched the ‘Deus 9 foot and single’ surf comp, bringing local and international talent together for a log jam on the river mouth right. It became an annual fixture and each time they ran, the town seemed to have grown a little bigger around them.
Nowadays, Canggu’s black sand stretch hosts hundreds of surfers on a good day, including scores of longboarders who jostle for position at Batu Bolong and Old Mans; two of Bali’s softest and most well-subscribed breaks. When conditions line up, they offer long, supremely cruisey rides over a generously covered reef, welcomed by a lineup replete with determined Russians, talented locals and leathery Aussie ex-pats grumbling about influencers and digital nomads.
Of the Philippines’ 7000 islands, the teardrop-shaped Siargao holds the highest concentration of top-quality waves. Although best known for the big barrels of Cloud Nine, a scattering of outer reefs and inside reforms provide many longboard-friendly spots too. Jacking Horse doesn’t sound like it should be one of them, but it in fact serves up soft rights over a deep reef at higher tides. Barrio is a fun right that breaks off Daku island, just a short boat ride from General Luna. Then there’s Cemetery, which is accessed via a long walk across the reef, offering forgiving peaks breaking in both directions and sparser crowds than elsewhere.
The local longboard crew is spearheaded by the Agudo sisters; Ikit and Aping, who were born and raised in General Luna. Together, they overcame significant cultural hurdles to become highly accomplished surfers and proud global ambassadors for their region. Through various initiatives, they’ve introduced dozens of fellow Filipinas to the joys of riding waves, working hard, alongside the rest of the local crew, to set the tone of inclusivity for which the island’s lineups are now globally renowned.